Anne Fleshman, Director of Marketing - Demand Generation at Autopilot

Lesson 3: Convert with Gated Content

Gated content incentivizes lead generation. Using them strategically is your path to bonus conversions.

Gated content is any piece of high-value content, like an ebook or video, given in exchange for a lead’s email address or contact information. The key is creating an offer your target audience wants so badly, they’re willing to fill in a form to access it. Commonly called lead magnets, gated content forms a strong basis for growing your email database and developing a successful lead nurture program.

In this lesson, you’ll learn:

What's gated content?

Start by crafting a compelling email opt-in offer

An email opt-offer is a quick win lead magnet and an easy way to start building your email list. Convey in two to three sentences the value subscribers will get for giving you access to their inbox. You’re satisfying the ever present “What’s in it for me?” mindset. Let’s compare a generic offer with an example from Pam Slim, an author and business consultant.

Generic offer that provides no reason for subscribing

In contrast to the generic offer above, you’ll notice Pam Slim’s offer draws people in to join her community, receive free tools and valuable content.

Clear opt-in offer example
Source: Pam Slim

When a person becomes an email subscriber, it’s just the beginning of the relationship. It is not an invitation to buy anything…yet. She’ll use this as an opportunity to deliver on her promise and stay top of mind until the contact is ready to convert into a customer.

Here’s a few more clever email opt-in offer examples to inspire you:

email opt-in
Clever email-opt in examples

To write your own, brainstorm 3-5 things your audience wants to learn from you and 3-5 things you can teach your audience. Use this list to craft a short, clear offer that’s easy to say “yes” to.

You know your offer is good if it makes your audience to feel like they’re getting something of value.

9 lead magnet ideas

As much as we’d like to convert first time website visitors into customers, research shows more than 90% aren’t yet ready to buy. Most of the time, they’re just doing research or browsing for answers to an immediate question. Your job at this stage is to start forming a relationship by giving your visitor a compelling reason to provide their email address in the form of an excitement-inducing, low-friction lead magnet. While these people won’t become customers right away, you’ve planted the seed of winning their trust and business in time.

More than 90% of first time website visitors aren't yet ready to buy.

Let’s take a look at 9 highly-effective lead magnet examples:

1. Ebooks, reports, whitepapers or guides filled with your expertise

Ebooks, reports, whitepapers and guides are one of the most common types of lead magnets. They are an opportunity for you to share your hard-earned insights over the years and simultaneously draw in new leads to grow your business. Take an in-depth look at a topic you have already covered on your blog, share results from a study, or create a workbook with checklists and step-by-step instructions a reader could do on their own. Repurposing your best blog content is the easiest way to create this stuff. The process takes compiling, editing, and designing, but the end result is evergreen, and it’ll draw leads and clicks over time.

Instapage has a great example of this. The company offers an ebook titled 35 Techniques to Triple Your Landing Page Conversions.

To drive traffic to the landing page, Instapage puts a call to action (CTA) button at the beginning and end of its blog posts, like so…

Call-to-action example from Instapage
Source: Instapage

The CTA feels like a natural part of the article. It’s obvious, but non-intrusive. Clicking on the button leads to this simple landing page:

Ebook landing page example from Instapage
Source: Instapage

“10 essential tips for your page design that clinch conversion rates” and “4 tips & best practices for writing great headlines” could easily stand on their own as blog posts, but combining these topics into a single resource gives readers more comprehensive value.

Some other examples include:

Growth Labs' curated guide of 30 companies who are winning
Source: Growth Labs
Vidyard's Video Marketing Handbook which serves as a 107 page one-stop-shop definitive guide
Source: Vidyard
Susan Su’s Ultimate Email Playbook compiling ready-to-use scripts from the best email marketers (seriously!)
Source: Susan Su

2. Who can resist swag?

People run 5Ks just to get a T-shirt; they’ll surely give you their email for the same thing. Companies like New Relic, Atlassian, and Invision do swag marketing well.

Example of swag marketing from Invision
Source: Invision

Giving away swag could get expensive, but like New Relic’s former CMO Patrick Moran says:

Swag gets people over the hump of ‘hey, neat idea – maybe I’ll try it someday’, and moves them to ‘Rockin’, now’s the time!

The company hasn’t shared exact numbers, but the cost of the t-shirt is nothing compared to the gain of overcoming two of the company’s hardest challenges: garnering interest from people who aren’t familiar with the product and getting them to implement it.

Example of swag marketing from New Relic
Source: New Relic

Swag marketing can draw leads new in, but can also be a walking advertisement for your business. Imagine 75,000 of your company shirts being worn around the world. It’s the physical lead magnet that keeps on generating returns. Why not test it out and see if it works for your business?

3. The nerve-hitting quick read

Sometimes a five-minute read is all it takes to catch a new lead. The secret is speaking to a pain point felt by your target market. You want to quickly answer ”Am I doing this right?” or “Ugh, I’ve always been unsure about this.” If you can quickly give them a tip that helps them move forward, they’ll love ya.

Less Accounting has a pop-up on its homepage that speaks directly to a problem small business owners feel
Source: Less Accounting

Messing up invoices could mean not getting paid, or having a clear sense of how much money you’re making. Do you have a blog post you could repurpose that hits on a pain point like the above?

4. The easy-to-read cheat sheet

Cheat sheets are a perfect resource for jogging your audience’s memory, because they make complex topics simple. Think of them like the cliff notes that give people the gist of what they need to know. The best cheat sheets are resources that visitors will refer to again and again.

ChartMogul's Ultimate SaaS Metrics Cheat Sheet
Source: ChartMogul

In two digestible pages, the company explains what the key SaaS metrics mean, why they’re useful, and how they’re calculated. In this case, anyone can download the PDF for free without providing their email address. The magnet comes in when people want a professionally printed copy—users must sign up for a free trial of ChartMogul if they want the cheat sheet.

5. Webinars or video series that educate your audience

Kick-ass webinars can be repurposed to drive future leads. Just make them easy to access for new visitors to your website and/or blog, like our friends at Kissmetrics.

Kissmetrics' on-demand webinar library
Source: Kissmetrics

Each webinar clicks through to a landing page. Visitors can only access the webinar recording after filling out the form. Kissmetrics is adding to their library of lead magnets with every new webinar.

Example of Kissmetrics' on-demand webinar landing page
Source: Kissmetrics

In a similar vein, Invision utilizes a free and easy 8-part video series as a lead magnet to teach designers how to use Sketch. With each video less than 10 minutes, you can binge watch them all at once.

Example of Invision's video series lead magnet
Source: Invision

6. The highlights of your bestseller

This lead magnet is a great option for companies who already have long-form content like a book. To do it, transform content that takes an hour to consume into content that takes five minutes to consume. It’s a quick and easy way to repurpose your existing content.

Example of I Will Teach You To Be Rich’s lead magnet
Source: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

The offer is the first thing new visitors see on the I Will Teach You To Be Rich homepage. It’s the “Blueprints” of the author’s best-selling book. The copy where he says “I don’t want to cut into book sales, so get it now before I come to my senses and take this down” is not only conversational, but adds a sense of urgency to download.

7. Personalize the customer experience with quizzes, graders or calculators

Quizzes and other interactive lead magnets like graders or calculators are an engaging way to create personalized experiences for your website visitors. The best ones benefit both you and your lead. Ask questions to identify specific problems for your target market and conclude with an offer exchanging the solution for contact details. Think of it as a hyper-targeted lead magnet.

This fictional schematic from a golf business shows the power of quizzes to identify a problem and create a personalized offer

Below is a real-life quiz example from Club W, a wine business that asks new visitors to take a two-minute Palate Profile Quiz. After the user completes the quiz, there is a popup window to fill out a form to join the club. To sweeten the deal, there’s an incentive to get a free bottle of wine on the first order after signing up.

Club W’s quiz lead magnet
Source: Club W

Similar to the golf blog example above, the product offerings for Club W change based on the website visitors’ answers to the quiz, which ends up driving higher engagement as well as a more personalized buying experience.

Club W’s personalized buying experience

Here are tools you can use to create your quizzes:

Graders, scorers, and calculators are other forms of gated content that engage visitors in an interactive way while simultaneously gathering information about them in order to deliver a more personalized experience.

For example, Wordstream offers a free Google AdWords Performance Grader to help advertisers better understand how well their campaigns are performing compared to PPC best practices.

Wordstream's Google AdWords Performance Grader
Source: Wordstream

8. The downloadable audit that shows people areas to improve

People want to know if the time, effort, and energy going into their work is paying off. This is where audit lead magnets come in. They provide an organized exercise for your audience to evaluate their efforts and learn by doing.

Downloadable audit example from Digital Marketer
Source: Digital Marketer

The above audit lead magnet offer beckons readers to grade their social media efforts. Note the copy choices that nudge towards a download, like “Where should we send your audit?” above the form and how “reveal gaps and opportunities to drive results” is in bold.

9. Email courses to drip campaign your way to conversions

Email courses or mini-courses are lead magnets that leverage marketing automation to deliver emails in a drip sequence over time. These typically perform best as short 5-10 day series, sent once per day.

Email courses tend to have high open rates because subscribers expect and want to hear from you. When creating your emails, stick to consistent send times, sender, and naming convention for your subject lines so they are recognizable amongst other noise in the inbox, something simple like “Day 1: [Subject]” or “[X Challenge] – Day 1” works well.

Below are a few examples of email course lead magnets:

Highbrow strives to make learning an everyday habit by delivering bite-size courses via email every morning. Courses are 10 days long, broken down into 5-minute lessons. At the end of every course, Highbrow sends a congratulatory email that encourages you to start your next one.

Example of email course offer from Highbrow
Source: Highbrow

Simple Green Smoothies’ Simple 7 email course inspires adoption of a new healthy habit. They ask new website visitors a compelling question via a Headsup message on their website.

Example of Headsup message from Simple Green Smoothies

Clicking on the call to action takes the visitor to an attractive, easy opt-in landing page with more information.

Take your email course lead magnet to the next level by co-marketing the effort like KlientBoost did with their 2017 Holiday Campaign. They worked with 25 partners including Autopilot to deliver a daily gifographic every day in December leading up to Christmas, just like an advent calendar (minus the chocolate). With each participating partner promoting the offer and sharing it with their respective networks, it’s a recipe for virality.

Example of email course landing page from KlientBoost
Source: KlientBoost

The key to a successful email course is the final email. If the reader made it this far, there is a good chance you’ve won their attention. This is your opportunity to prompt them along their customer journey by providing another call to action, whether it be a free trial or demo of your product or another lead magnet offer, and show how you can help them implement what they’ve learned.

Strategic places for your gated content

Once you’ve created your lead magnet, you’re going to want to optimize their visibility. This means placing these babies strategically on your website.

Here’s a list of five high-value places for your lead magnets to call home:

A Headsup message: shown on specific website pages of your choosing to anonymous or known visitors. 

Headsup message example from Freshdesk
Source: Freshdesk

Your blog sidebar: visitors are in learning mode on your blog; invite them to keep learning. 

Blog sidebar lead magnet example from Whole Foods
Source: Whole Foods

A popup box: to avoid being spammy, set rules so the box only shows to people who are engaging, like to a blog post reader who has scrolled halfway down the page or about to leave your site. 

Popup box example from ConversionXL
Source: ConversionXL

At the end of a blog post: a reader is more likely to opt after they’ve consumed valuable content.  

End of blog post lead magnet example from Matador Network
Source: Matador Network

Your “about” page: this is where people go to see who you are and what you do. For those who like what they see, a lead magnet gives them a way to stay tuned into what you’re doing in the future. For example, marketer Brian Dean added an opt-in form to his about page that converted 4x better than any blog post on his site. 

About page lead magnet example from Brian Dean
Source: Backlinko

Gating content doesn’t have to be lengthy, complex, or time-intensive process. It does need to solve a specific problem for a specific segment of your market. By using lead magnets, you’ll grow your contact database, and ultimately your bottom line.

Further resources

Want to learn more about converting with gated content? Check out these helpful resources:

Next Lesson

Lesson 4: Create High-Converting Landing Pages

A landing page is just what it sounds like – a page you land on before you go somewhere else. And every marketing campaign needs one. Like a helicopter pad, people ...

Go to next lesson